How Edward Colston is being erased from Bristol

How Edward Colston is being erased from Bristol: Name of slave trader is removed from dozens of schools, concert venues and pubs in wake of BLM protests that saw toppling of his statue

  • Colston, who served as deputy governor of Royal African Company, once celebrated as Bristol’s greatest son
  • But anti-racism campaigners have long argued his involvement in the slave trade outweighed his philanthropy
  • Move to purge Bristol of legacy gained renewed impetus after protests which saw statue thrown into harbour

The name of slave trader Edward Colston has been removed from dozens of schools, concert venues and pubs in Bristol following a Black Lives Matter protest that saw his statue toppled.

Colston, who served as deputy governor of the Royal African Company, was once celebrated as Bristol’s greatest son and gave several large charitable donations to cement his legacy.

But campaigners have long argued his involvement in the slave trade outweighed his philanthropy, and his name has now been almost completely erased from his home city.

One of the first to take action in 2018 was Colston Primary School, which renamed itself Cotham Gardens primary school after the majority of parents, pupils and former students agreed to the change.

These campaigns then came to a head during 2020’s Black Lives Matter protests which saw his statue torn down and thrown into the docks. 

Colston, who served as deputy governor of the Royal African Company, was once celebrated as Bristol’s greatest son, but his legacy is quickly being erased from his home city 


In November 2020, Colston’s Girls’ School became known as Montpelier High School, after a vote by staff and students


Colston Hall is now known as the Bristol Beacon, while the former Colston Tower has been renamed Beacon Tower 


A University of Bristol student housing block once known as Colston Street is now Accommodation at Thirty-Three

The events led to growing pressure on any Bristol businesses or institutions still honouring Colston in their title. 

The former Colston Hall was re-named ‘Bristol Beacon’ in September 2020 after more than 4,000 people participated in a public consultation.

The management of the charitable music venue said in a post on their website that its former name had ‘acted as a memorial to the slave trader Edward Colston’.

The post said their long-awaited re-brand was ‘an opportunity for a fresh start and a chance to play our part in creating a fairer and more equal society’.

In November 2020, Colston’s Girls’ School became known as Montpelier High School, after a vote by staff and students.

Principal Kerry McCullagh said the new name would ‘allow the school to forge a new identity that represents its diverse and inclusive community’.

Colston’s School, in Stapleton, is the last to bear his name and is yet to change its name but has announced plans to do so.

A post on the school’s site said feedback from current pupils, recent former pupils and staff showed that they were ‘inclined to see a change in the name of the school as a positive step’ – and the new name will be announced in 2022. 


A pub formerly known as The Colston Arms was also re-named this month after temporarily adopting the name ‘Ye olde Pubby Mcdrunkface’

Campaigns to abandon Colston’s legacy came to a head during 2020’s Black Lives Matter protests which saw his statue torn down and thrown into the docks

Colston Primary School renamed itself Cotham Gardens primary school in 2018, two years before the BLM protests 

Nick Baker, chair of the school’s governors, said: ‘After a lengthy period of consultation, consideration and reflection, it became clear that those with a closer connection to the school would prefer to have a name that was more relevant for the pupils and staff of today and tomorrow.

‘It is hoped that a new identity will do more to reflect the values and ethos that the school stands for today and to make it even more welcoming to the local community it serves.’

A pub formerly known as The Colston Arms was also re-named this month after temporarily adopting the name ‘Ye olde Pubby Mcdrunkface’.

It is now known as the Open Arms, according to a post on the pub’s Facebook page on December 20. 

Colston’s School, in Stapleton, is the last to bear his name and is yet to change its name but has announced plans to do so

Colston Road in Easton, Bristol, still bears the slave trader’s name, although street signs have been painted over 

Colston Street in the centre of Bristol is one of the few landmarks to still bear the merchant’s name 

Several other bars have made similar moves in recent months – with others likely to follow.

A University of Bristol student housing block once known as Colston Street is now Accommodation at Thirty-Three.

But Colston Street in central Bristol, and Colston Road in Easton, remain as yet unchanged.       

Edward Colston: Merchant and slave trader who was once seen as Bristol’s greatest son

Edward Colston was integral in the Royal African Company, which had complete control of Britain’s slave trade

Edward Colston was born to a wealthy merchant family in Bristol, 1636.

After working as an apprentice at a livery company he began to explore the shipping industry and started up his own business.

He later joined the Royal African Company and rose up the ranks to Deputy Governor.

The Company had complete control of Britain’s slave trade, as well as its gold and Ivory business, with Africa and the forts on the coast of west Africa.

During his tenure at the Company his ships transported around 80,000 slaves from Africa to the Caribbean and America.

Around 20,000 of them, including around 3,000 or more children, died during the journeys. 

Colston’s brother Thomas supplied the glass beads that were used to buy the slaves.

Colston became the Conservative MP for Bristol in 1710 but stood only for one term, due to old age and ill health.

He used a lot of his wealth, accrued from his extensive slave trading, to build schools and almshouses in his home city.

A statue was erected in his honour as well as other buildings named after him, including Colston Hall.

However, after years of protests by campaigners and boycotts by artists the venue recently agreed to remove all reference of the trader. 

On a statue commemorating Colston in Bristol, a plaque read: ‘Erected by citizens of Bristol as a memorial of one of the most virtuous and wise sons of their city.’ 

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 sparked by the death of George Floyd in the US, the statue of Colston overlooking the harbour was torn down. 

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